Google is rolling out two features today that subtly but meaningfully enhance the level of personalization offered to anyone with a Google account. And while they’re tied to your search behavior, they don’t directly alter the standard search results you see, even if you’ve enabled personalization by searching while signed in to Google account.
The first feature allows you to add a “recommendations” tab to a Google personalized home page. To enable the feature, simply add a new tab, name it “recommendations” and tick the “I’m feeling lucky – automatically add stuff based on the tab name” checkbox. This will create a new tabbed page with lots of personalized suggestions, including recommended queries, web pages, gadgets, videos, groups and news. Here’s a screenshot:
These recommendations are all based on your personal search history and the behavior of others who’ve done similar searches. When I spoke yesterday with Sep Kamvar, Google software engineer on personalization, he said that Google intends to continue adding new types of recommended content in the future.
The second feature is a new button for the Google Toolbar called “picks for you.” Clicking this button displays one of 50 new sites every day, chosen for you based on your search history and what others have searched for. Clicking the button successively displays each new pick in turn.
This is remarkably similar to the “Stumble” button on the StumbleUpon toolbar. The key difference between Google’s picks for you and the sites displayed by StumbleUpon lie with how they are chosen. With StumbleUpon, you create an explicit profile of your interests and “vote” on sites that you like or dislike. Your profile is compared with others’ to select from a small subset of 8 million or so web pages.
Google’s personalization, by contrast, doesn’t require any work on your part, beyond using Google to search. Google assembles your picks by observing your behavior and sussing out content from the entire web that it believes might appeal to you—a process that Kamvar calls “queryless search.”
“Our job is to give you the information you want and need with you doing as little work as possible to get it,” he said.
To use either of the new services, you need to have a Google account and be logged in to the service. To add the “Picks for You” button to the Google Toolbar, Google said to visit the Toolbar button gallery and search for “Picks for You.” [Postscript: The button has yet to materialize there, but you'll find it here].
Read more on this post on the Google blog.